Q. What the heck is lampworking?
A. A lot of people see the word “lampworking” and assume that I fix lamps. No. Lampworking, also called flameworking or torchworking, is the art of melting glass using a torch. Back in the “olden days” people would often use an oil lamp to do this, thus “lampworking” was born. Despite the fact that actual lamps haven’t been used in many, many, many years, the term persists.
Q. Do you blow glass?
A. A lot of flameworkers do blow glass, but I personally do not. Glass blowing typically results in larger glass pieces like vases and pitchers and paperweights and requires a large furnace. It is something that I would love to try someday in a glass studio that isn’t located in my garage. I don’t think my homeowner’s insurance company would approve. I’m more of a glass winder than a blower.
Q. How do you get the hole in the bead?
A. The hole is an artifact of the winding process. I wind the glass onto a stainless steel mandrel (metal stick for the uninitiated), building the glass up to the size and shape I want, turning the mandrel with the glass on it in the flame. When the bead is done and cooled, it comes off the mandrel and leaves a hole.
Q. How did you get that flower in the bead?
A. Magic. I’d tell you, but then I’d have to… Just kidding. It’s not a hard process. When you make a bead, you’re building it from the center out. Along the way, you layer glass. For instance, I’d make a small clear bead on the mandrel, then put down some different colored dots in clusters to resemble a flower. Then I’d top the whole shebang with more clear glass. It’s going to appear that the flower is floating inside the clear. Mystery solved.
Q. Why are handmade lampwork beads so expensive?
A. There are a lot of expensive tools needed for lampworking, from the torch to the kiln. The supplies are not cheap… Depending on the color, glass can cost anywhere from $10 per pound to $100 per pound. And the process of making beads is time intensive. A simple round spacer may only take a couple minutes, but fancy beads can take HOURS.
Q. Wouldn’t it be cheaper to just buy beads from China?
A. 😦 I could go on about quality of product and wave an American flag, but I’m going to tell you the truth. Yeah, it would be cheaper but every time you buy a mass-made bead, a kitten dies.
Q. Can you fix my insert random glass item here?
A. Nope. Not all glass is the same. The kind of glass that I use is probably not the same kind that your item uses. The glass must be compatible or it’s just not going to work. In addition, the glass would need to be brought up to working temperature in a kiln and my kiln is little. Your thing may not fit in there. And even if it did, the process of removing it, then sticking it in the flame and taking it out again would probably just make the problem even worse. And assuming we get past that part… I’m an amature bead maker. A fully equipped glass studio with a master craftsman may be able to pull it off, but not me. I work in my garage. ‘Nuff said.